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States Try To Do Better At Connecting Inmates With Their Children

Many states are looking at a growing body of research showing that having a parent behind bars can have a destabilizing effect, reports Stateline. An estimated 1.7 million children have incarcerated parents. The separation can have costly emotional and social consequences, such as trauma and trouble in schools, homelessness, and bigger welfare and foster care rolls. Some states are encouraging greater contact between the children and their parents by using new technology such as televisiting, or by placing parents in the closest correctional facility. Some try to intervene when a parent is charged, tried and convicted of a crime to provide emotional support and a stable home for the children.

In New York, the Senate’s corrections committee advanced a bill in March that would create a pilot program that places sentenced parents in the nearest jail or prison. The federal government allows states to use funding from the National Family Caregiver Support Program to provide grandparents and other elderly relatives who care for the children with services such as counseling. Washington has a statewide network of “kinship navigators” that connects families and extended relatives with legal services, health care and parenting classes. Some states are looking at ways to reconnect children with their parents after they leave jail or prison, and to help ease parents back into society to provide a more stable family life for their children.

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Newspaper Faults Portland Mayor, Chief For "Cowardly Response" On Shooting

When Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea called his friend to apologize for shooting him in the back during a hunting trip, O'Dea said he had put his .22-caliber rifle down, went to get a drink and it suddenly fired when he picked it back up. The Oregonian says his account directly contradicts what a visibly rattled O'Dea told a deputy right after the April 21 shooting: that it appeared his friend, Robert Dempsey, was trying to return his pistol to his shoulder holster and accidentally shot himself. At the time, O'Dea told the deputy that he didn't have his rifle in his hand, having placed it on his chair and walked a couple of steps to open a drink when he heard his friend suddenly groan in pain. The deputy said he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on O'Dea's breath and described O'Dea as nervous with glassy, bloodshot eyes, shaking and quickly drinking a bottle of water as he talked. The conflicting versions of what happened are in an Oregon Fish & Wildlife report required after hunting accidents.

In an editorial, The Oregonian says the incident may have been an accident, "but what's not accidental is O'Dea's and Mayor Charlie Hales' intentional and cowardly response: They have kept the matter quiet for nearly a month until reporters forced them to confirm that a shooting occurred." The newspaper says, "Their actions reflect their disrespect for the public and a lack of understanding of what accountability means."

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Ohio Prison Watchdog Agency Survives After Director Resigns

Ohio Republican legislators backed off their attempt virtually to dismantle an independent prison watchdog panel after the agency’s controversial director agreed to quit, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The resignation of Joanna Saul as head of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee ended a turbulent 24 hours in which GOP leaders worked to silence the agency, which has been an independent, bipartisan watchdog over state adult prisons for nearly 40 years.

Saul lit a fire this week with a sharply worded letter to the Senate complaining about "the lack of transparency and silencing of critics by this administration. The administration went hard after the main legislator who was helping me, effectively silencing her, and now the entire committee is being wiped. Is that what Ohio government stands for?" It came down to a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the Senate: Saul, a lawyer paid $65,833 annually, could stay and fight, or resign and the agency created in 1977 would survive. “She has a history of being grossly insubordinate,” said Senate President Keith Faber. Lawmakers, not staff, drive the organization, he said, and on two occasions “she has refused to follow instructions and operated under her own plan.”

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Feds Win Few Cases Against Individual Employees Of Large Wall Street Banks

In 156 criminal and civil cases brought by the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission against 10 of the largest Wall Street banks since 2009, individual employees were neither identified nor charged 81 percent of the time, says the Wall Street Journal. A total of 47 bank employees were charged in relation to the cases. One was a boardroom-level executive. Most bankers who were charged pleaded guilty to criminal counts or agreed to settle a civil case, with those facing civil charges paying a median penalty of $61,000. The government won a contested case against only five bank employees.

A federal appeals court overturned one of the few successful government cases Monday: civil mortgage-fraud charges and a $1 million penalty against Rebecca Mairone, a former executive at Countrywide Financial Corp., now part of Bank of America. The court threw out a related $1.27 billion penalty against Bank of America. There are plenty of explanations for the small number of successful cases. Much institutional conduct during and after the financial crisis didn’t break the law, said officials. Even when the government has proved illegal activity, it has rarely been traced to the upper echelons of big banks. "The typical scenario is not that the bank has this plan for world domination being cooked up by the chairman and CEO," said University of Michigan law Prof. Adam Pritchard. "It’s some midlevel employee trying to keep his job or his bonus, and as result the bank gets into trouble."

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Charged Baltimore Officers Sue Prosecutor For Defamation In Gray Cases

Two officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are suing Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby for defamation and invasion of privacy. Sgt. Alicia White and officer William Porter, who are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 25-year-old's death last April, claim that Mosby and the sheriff's office knew the statement of charges filed against the officers and other statements made by Mosby at a May 1, 2015, news conference announcing the charges "were false," the Baltimore Sun reports. "These among other statements were made not for the purpose of prosecuting crimes that had allegedly been committed by White and Porter, but rather for purposes of quelling the riots in Baltimore," the suit alleges.

Legal experts expressed doubt that the lawsuit would be successful. A. Dwight Pettit, who litigates civil cases in Baltimore but is not involved in this case, said prosecutors enjoy immunity from being sued "unless you can show some sort of malicious intent, which is a very steep burden." White, a supervisor, and Porter, a patrol officer, both face involuntary manslaughter and other charges. Prosecutors allege that they ignored Gray's injuries and failed to secure him in a seat belt. The officers have said they believed Gray was simply being uncooperative. Porter, whose first trial in December ended in a hung jury, is scheduled to be tried again starting Sept. 6. White's trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 13.

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Prosecutors Still Cite "Outlandish Reasons" For Eliminating Black Jurors

Despite this week's Supreme Court decision that reversed a Georgia capital murder conviction because prosecutors struck every black person from the jury, "prosecutors can and do still remove black persons from jury service with impunity simply by concocting purportedly race-neutral reasons," former prosecutor Bennett Gershman of Pace University writes for Slate. He says "prosecutors have been adept at concocting outlandish reasons for their strikes that almost always escape judicial scrutiny, 'didn’t seem sincere,' ' seemed inattentive,' 'gut feeling,' 'the way they answered questions,' male wearing earring, living alone, living with a girlfriend, overeducated, undereducated, unemployed, employed as a barber, agreed with the O.J. Simpson verdict, watches gospel programs on TV, particular surname, 'hunches,' and on and on."

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TCR at a Glance

The New Politics of the Drug War

special report May 26, 2016

As presidential candidates focus on the opioid epidemic, grassroots initiatives are transforming the national debate about drugs.

Life After Prison: Opting In or Opting Out

special report May 23, 2016

In Part 4 of our podcast series, Lorenzo Brooks faces the challenges of navigating a now-unfamiliar world he left behind when he went to ...